The anti-saint faction’s assault came to an end without seeing much blood.
It was clear to everyone that the greatest achievement lied with the king and Saint Celiastina. Around the count of two hundred soldiers in that spot witnessed everything and, among the surrounding residents who stayed at home without evacuating, there were a number of those who secretly watched the situation.
Certainly, it was all a problem born from Saint Celiastina’s tyrannic behavior; however, with the present her, it was enough to believe in her once more. Those inside the royal palace began to think like that. In addition, even the general public who did not know the circumstances watched the sincere interactions of the king and saint with goodwill. Yes, their opinions did not drop as much as was expected.
Was this an unexpected reaction for the king?”
Asyut was walking through the corridor alone with a straight back.
He was on his way back after having gone to see the states of those in the anti-saint faction who were imprisoned in jail. A day had passed since then, and their punishment still hadn’t been decided. In this unmoving situation, they were much calmer in jail than expected. They did not jeer upon seeing Asyut’s figure, and they did not shout for Celiastina to be brought to them. Hearing the stories from the soldiers who were guarding them, they were impressed at how extremely quiet and obedient the prisoners were. Rather, it seems it was the ones who gave themselves up early on who were noisy about asking what would become of them.
Did they believe in the words of the king and Celiastina?
Celiastina, when she was facing the anti-saint faction, announced that she would like them to watch over the real “her” when she returned. And she entreated the king not to put them to death. The king also acknowledged that–.
But, in actuality, it was not that easy for them to escape capital punishment. There was the will of the saint and the words of the king himself. However, the priest faction did not approve of that. In turn, their voices grew loud with criticism spewed at the king who bore the responsibility of allowing the royal palace to be assaulted by a small rebel army, and that there was point in arguing on how those who targeted the life of the saint should be put to death.
What to do from here? Asyut was saddled with that problem and was now on his way to the king.
The usual liveliness had completely returned to the royal palace’s corridors.
The female servants, who had stood by in their homes, had already returned and now and then he could hear them laughing with each other. The tense air from yesterday could no longer be felt, and everything had become the same as always to the extent where the assault could be thought of as a dream.
But it was not a dream. Even now, problems were piled up like a mountain.
Before the king’s office, Asyut knocked on the door to the room and twisted the handle with familiar actions. Like the king’s personal rooms, this door was uniquely made and would not budge if one were to just push it.
In the room the king was standing alone by the window. Normally, there should be one person at minimum waiting on him, but it seems he cleared out the people just now.
“Oh, Asyut, you came.”
The king showed a clear smile and raised one hand to welcome Asyut. He was offered a seat but Asyut chose to stand.
“You went to see the state of the anti-saint faction members, did you not. How were they?”
“Yes, nothing in particular has changed and they are quiet.”
“Is that so. And is your sister alright as well?”
Asyut nodded with a complicated heart. Milifaire was also passing the time in the same jail along with the others. There was a distinction between men and women, and the number of women in the prisons were less than ten. Still, it was certainly not a comfortable place. For that reason, the royal palace proposed preparing a private room, but Milifaire refused that. Because Asyut understood her feelings, he accepted her intentions.
“Well, nothing can be done in this current situation. If your sister was treated specially, the one hurt would be none other than herself. Rather than keeping watch on that, the next move must be decided as quickly as possible.”
The king murmured that with a pensive expression. It was a pensive look, but there was no doubt that beneath that look his mind was already decided.
“You do not intend to put them to death. And that should not be impossible. This assault was settled better than expected and you and Lady Celiastina directly exchanged words on how “they will not be given the death penalty”. On top of that, there is a movement inside the royal palace to speak about the events of this time as a moving tale, and so is it not possible to crush the opposition of the priest faction.”
“That is correct. However, it is also a question of how much we can exempt the anti-saint faction.”
For an instant Asyut fell silent.
“… Being imprisoned for life would, legally, be enough.”
“But that is not an option. First of all, it is unrealistic to cover feeding as many as one hundred and fifty people in jail for decades. Furthermore, as I have already said, I intend to invite several people from them to the Inspection Committee to watch over the movements of the saint and the priests.”
“In regard to that, the plans are being refined at once and in secrecy. I will report again once the general framework has been completed.”
“Mm, I am relying on you. It would be best to be as quick as possible.”
“The priest faction is resisting more and more, aren’t they.”
“That’s right. Although those people who serve God will never do something such as take up swords and revolt.”
The king said something that was between a joke and not. Asyut sighed without concealing it.
“Please do not make light of the priests too much. Even without taking up swords, it would be troubling if the discord were to deepen.”
“I will keep that in mind. But, Asyut, I would like you to pay close attention to the movements of the priests in the future as well. They should also be more than aware enough of the position they are placed in. In the future, it may not be enough to simply voice objections.”
He recalled the words of the high-ranking priest, Roblin, that he passed just before the anti-saint faction’s assault.
–We will protect the saint in our own way. Even if we remonstrate her, we cannot abandon her. To abandon the saint is to abandon our faith.
Even now he could remember that man’s words clearly.
–Even if the king uses the saint as a convenient pawn, we will preserve her sanctity.
Roblin’s calm demeanor, conversely, made him feel a bad premonition. What was the meaning of those words? When he saw the situation settle like this, he became all the more concerned.
“And, how is Lady Celiastina. Has she not waken yet?”
It seemed the king was also reminded of Celiastina. Asyut nodded with a disheartened expression when he was asked that in a somewhat kind tone.
Yesterday, after the raid, Celiastina had watched motionlessly until the last person of the anti-saint faction was taken away by the army, and then she conveyed that she was not feeling well, and quickly withdrew to her own room. She simply wanted to sleep right now and, if she said that, there was no way they could drag her out forcibly from her room. After watching her sink deeply into the bed for a while and sleep as if she were dead, Asyut had left the room with reluctant feelings. He had asked her maid, Nasha, to report to him as soon as Celiastina woke but– there was still no report from Nasha.
Asyut called out his name anew. The king raised his eyebrows and looked at Asyut.
“About Lady Celiastina… the contents of what you said yesterday at that spot was undeniably true, wasn’t it.”
The current Celiastina was not the real Celiastina. She was a completely different person; a girl sent to fill the absence of the saint. And, eventually, a person who would disappear–
“You must think it is a preposterous story.”
That’s right, Asyut answered shortly.
“I think it’s preposterous. However, as you’ve said, I have also felt that for a long time.”
“So, you did notice.”
After he nodded, the king stared intently at Asyut.
“You’re quite calm.”
Asyut lowered his eyes with a prompt reply.
“I can’t help but be terrified. In truth, I am even standing here full of anxiety. How long will she sleep? What if she won’t wake anymore? And even if she wakes…”
His voice grew hoarse and the end of his words disappeared.
Even if she woke…
“… I apologize deeply but please excuse me.”
Asyut raised his head, conveying only that, before he pivoted on his heels.
As he thought, he should stay by Celiastina’s side.
He couldn’t bring himself to act composed any longer. Such thoughts pushed Asyut’s back strongly and he left the room, halfway to rushing out, to head towards Celiastina’s room. All the while wishing, please, oh god, that “the last moment” she mentioned would not come.
It was right when Asyut, who was walking through the hallway with his shoes echoing loudly, was at a corner that he nearly collided with a small shape that leapt out from the other side. He heard a quiet scream of “Ah” and, when he looked down, it was the maid who attended to Celiastina, Nasha.
“Nasha, what’s wrong.”
The pale face that looked up at Asyut was flushed slightly because she ran. Seeing how the maid appeared relieved, Asyut’s heartbeat quickened all at once.
“Oh, I’m glad to see you. Lady Celiastina is–“
“Lady Celiastina is!?”
When he unconsciously grabbed both her shoulders tightly, Nasha managed to answer with eyes darting from surprise.
“She has woken and looks healthy! She said she’d like to see you, Lord Asyut.”
Oh, he felt a tension release from his whole body. So, she finally woke up. And she said she wanted to see him–.
He couldn’t continue to walk slowly anymore. Asyut ran down the long hallway at full speed.
Celiastina was sitting in the bed in her room.
Her neck was turned to gaze out of the window that was a slight distance from her bed. When she noticed that Asyut finally arrived at her room, she slowly turned to him. Her expression– felt, for some reason, somewhat different from usual.
“Asyut, so you came.”
Saying that, she gave a small smile and, as he thought, something was different somewhere.
Calling out that name he walked up to her and her smile deepened. It must be his imagination. There was nothing unusual.
“How are you feeling.”
“Mm, I’m fine already. I slept all day so I’m feeling healthy.”
Celiastina said that and tried to get out of her bed. Asyut hurriedly stopped her.
“Please continue to lie down. You must be tired from yesterday and today’s events.”
“I’m fine. I was thinking of getting some outside air.”
“Let me open the window.”
Asyut approached the window with a long stride while waving Celiastina off with a hand. The time was past mid-noon and the sunlight through the window was warm. The clear weather that had continued for the past several days was unchanged today as well.
“That’s a nice wind.”
Celiastina raised a happy voice to the breeze that came in from the gap of the window.
Looking back with his hands on the window still, Asyut stared hard at her. Celiastina, who noticed Asyut’s gaze, tilted her head with a troubled look.
“Asyut, what’s wrong?”
“… Lately, I’ve been thinking long and hard on this.”
And then Asyut walked up to Celiastina’s side once again.
“What exactly are you? What kind of existence did you have originally?”
Celiastina looked up at Asyut with unreadable eyes.
“Won’t you please tell me. Yesterday, you clearly spoke of how you were “not Celiastina”. Then, who exactly are you? You said the answer to that was not important, but… it is extremely important to me. I want to know about you, by all means.”
When Asyut’s feet stopped at her bedside, he stared down at Celiastina without looking away.
“Even when I’m by your side, and even when I exchanged words with you, it is frustrating how I am not really touching you.”
“I love you.”
Asyut informed her plainly. Celiastina’s purple eyes wavered slightly.
–Ah, he finally told her.
He came all this way without managing to tell her those few words. He hated her but, unnoticed, he was drawn to her. He was bewildered by himself and, again, he wavered.
Asyut thought about how he came quite a long way. He also felt like he should have told her this earlier. But he probably needed time for himself.
“I know, that you are rejecting my feelings. But, no more. Please, hold nothing back and tell me everything that you are thinking.”
Celiastina closed her mouth again. She was at a loss. However, Asyut also could not pull back. He was confident that, if he were to avert his eyes from her now, he would lose something important.
Once more, he called that name firmly. She closed her eyes and did not move like that for a while. Asyut continued to wait patiently. For her to open her mouth and talk about everything.
“You see, I saw a strange dream.”
“… A dream?”
Yes, Celiastina said and continued on with her eyes closed.
“I was standing alone in a pure white world. There was no one there except for me. But, in the dream, I was very calm. Ah, I understood that I came here again.”
Asyut was driven by an inexplicable uneasiness as he made acknowledging noises. However, Celiastina herself had an air of composure.
“I walked for a while. Although, because it was a white world, I didn’t even know if I was moving forward or not. Anyway, I thought I would try and walk and moved my feet. And then I saw a person standing in the distance.”
Celiastina opened her eyes again at that point and looked up at the ceiling as if she was imagining that scene of her dream.
“I was relieved that they were there, like I thought they’d be. After all, that person was in that world the last time I came there, so I was sure they’d be there somewhere again.”
“… That person was?”
She said that name in a gentle tone.
“It was Celiastina’s figure. She was looking down a little, so I couldn’t see her face well. But, you know, I could see a little of her face this time, when I couldn’t see it at all the last time we met. I thought she had a very calm expression. That’s why I was glad and relieved from the bottom of my heart.”
“… What did she say?”
“We didn’t say any words. Before I could speak, I felt a sensation like my body was being pulled… and then, before I knew it, I woke up on this bed.”
And then she stroked the bed sheets with a pale hand, as if she were saying the story about her dream ended here.
Celiastina turned her eyes towards Asyut again.
“I have one request. Won’t you come with me to the infirmary?”
Asyut reflexively asked again. An unexpected place jumped out from her mouth and he was slightly perplexed. However, if that was what Celiastina wished then Asyut nodded.
“But is your body well enough?”
“I’m fine, I was only sleeping. I want to go and see the asiatic jasmine planted in the infirmary.”
This time he supported Celiastina, who had gotten down from her bed, and then Asyut placed the stole that was prepared beside him on her shoulders.
The asiatic jasmine of the infirmary. Asyut had also heard things regarding this. That it was a plant that Celiastina carefully nurtured. And that, under the divine protection of the saint, it seemed to continue to grow at an abnormal speed–. Asyut had also thought about wanting to see its state together with her at the infirmary once, but since he had been too busy lately it had been left like that. If Celiastina said she wanted to see it together then it was welcome news.
But the uncomfortable feeling he felt upon his first glance of her remained. He could not help but feel a vague apprehension. Asyut did not allow his disturbance to be sensed and followed after Celiastina silently.
When they visited the infirmary, Mislee welcomed the two of them with great delight.
Lord Asyut, you’ve finally come, haven’t you, she said with a wide smile. Celiastina stopped Mislee who tried to prepare tea for them immediately and the two of them went out to the back yard.
Coming out into the garden, he noticed that the sun had started to set and the sky was dyed a faint red. In the midst of that, a single tree stretched up towards the sun in a pleased way. Behind that were lush green vines. Several things white like snow were entangled in the vine, but those seemed to be flower buds.
Asyut called out from behind Celiastina, who was staring at the plant seriously. Celiastina nodded while still staring at the asiatic jasmine.
“I’m happy that it’s growing smoothly. Since it’s like my double.”
“… Double, you said?”
Celiastina nodded again and turned to Asyut.
“I think I’m going to disappear soon.”
“It’s like I said during the battle with the anti-saint faction. I’m someone who will disappear when the real Celiastina returns. Because I was just a momentary being sent to serve as her replacement while her soul was resting.”
Asyut couldn’t find his words.
“Everything the king said is the truth. Celiastina tried to take her own life once. But that wasn’t allowed. Whether it was the will of God, or the will of something completely different… even I don’t know. I was only told by “it” that Celiastina would come back in about a year, at longest.”
A year. Asyut looked back roughly at the past. The beginning had been the events at that valley. From there… time had passed to the point where it wouldn’t be strange for it to have been a year.
“I am… Originally, I was an ordinary girl living in a town. But…”
Celiastina hesitated and her words cut off.
“But… there was an accident and I lost my life.”
A shudder ran through Asyut’s entire body. Unmoving, he only stared at the girl in front of him.
“In truth, I shouldn’t be in this world anymore. This one year was also a period of grace bestowed to me. Anyway, until Celiastina returned, I thought I’d try to make this royal palace a little easier for her to live in. So that Celiastina could think to try her best again once more, that’s what I told myself I was here for.”
But that wasn’t all, Celiastina said that and nodded to herself.
“In less than a year, I experienced many things. I learned a lot about a world I’m sure I’d never be able to know about in my whole life as long as I was just a town girl. I came into contact with a lot of people and realized what it meant to live.”
Celiastina held up her own hand over her head. It was a pale hand, so pale it seemed translucent to the sunlight.
“To live isn’t just to breathe. It’s something more precious and the fact that I can think this from the bottom of my heart is because of this year.”
Asyut tried to call her name but stopped. He pressed his lips together tightly and kept watching that figure who was all too ephemeral. Celiastina quietly lowered her hand and turned her face to Asyut again.
“But I was afraid of being drawn to you, Asyut. Even though I knew a separation would come one day, these feelings I couldn’t stop were– terrifying. I was happy when you gradually began to relax and open up to me, but I was also really afraid.”
The words “scary” were repeatedly said by Celiastina’s mouth. Slowly, carefully, as if she were testing out that feeling.
“There were a lot of scary things. The most was… that I’d die again, I guess. In the end, that really is terrifying. But, I wonder why, right in this moment, I don’t feel scared at all.”
There Celiastina suddenly smiled.
“Why’s that, huh. Even I find it very strange. Even though I know I don’t have time anymore, my feelings are this calm.”
“… What can I do to stop you?”
Celiastina shook her head slowly.
“That’s the only thing you can’t do. There’s no other way. Actually, I shouldn’t have been able to meet you like this, Asyut.”
This was an irreplaceable miracle– is what she meant.
“That’s why I have to be thankful for meeting you and everyone, Asyut.”
Asyut searched for some kind of objection with difficulty. It felt like, if he accepted this, she would disappear in that moment.
“To me, this is the beginning. I met you and it’s started at last– everything of me.”
Celiastina stretched out a hand and touched Asyut’s cheek. The sensation of her fingertips were cool but it did not calm Asyut’s heart.
“Asyut, your road will continue onwards from here. And I want you to walk straight forward on it. For me too.”
He didn’t want those words.
Asyut shook his head sluggishly.
“If you disappear, I wouldn’t be able to walk. I’ll slip back into a world of darkness again.”
“No you won’t, Asyut.”
A gentle and soft fragrance brushed Asyut’s nose. The moment he thought that, he was embraced tenderly. Celiastina, who wrapped her arms around Asyut’s back, buried her face in his chest.
“I can feel your heartbeat, Asyut. You’re alive. That’s why you can walk on.”
“If that’s the case, aren’t you alive like this right now?”
“You’re mistaken. The one breathing like this and living like this is “Celiastina”. I can tell now that Celiastina’s consciousness is right beside me.”
–Ah, why was it like this.
Even though her body was this soft and this warm. The heartbeat from her chest also came across firmly. The strength of her arms around his back and the tight grip of her hands on his clothes too. Her hair was even tickling his cheeks, fluttering in the wind and setting adrift a floral fragrance. Even the weight of her head against his chest– even though he was feeling her presence with his entire body and soul.
But at the same time, Asyut also started to feel that there was something being lost at the edges.
Celiastina called out that name once again.
“Thank you. I’m really glad I met you, Asyut. I was really happy in this one year.”
Asyut dropped his gaze to what was in his arms. Celiastina’s eyes were closed comfortably. No, she needed to open her eyes right now. Asyut’s body froze in terror, but she continued to keep her eyes closed and only showed a gentle smile.
“Thank you so much… thank you…”
As if saying “thank you” countless of times wasn’t enough, Celiastina continued to murmur that.
Gradually, the strength left from her body.
From the arms holding Asyut and the feet standing on the ground too. She tilted and began to collapse.
Even Asyut’s scream no longer brought a reaction.
Holding Celiastina’s body which was limp without energy, Asyut kneeled on the spot.
Celiastina was sleeping along together with faint breaths. It wasn’t that she died. However, she wasn’t simply asleep either. Asyut had no reasons, but he was convinced.
That, just now, her existence had disappeared–.
At that instant.
Asyut felt the air in the area begin to stir.
Following that, there was a strange floating feeling like something from the depths of his body was being lifted. Asyut unconsciously tightened his arms around Celiastina and lifted his head.
The wind blew.
The tree leaves shook and rustled.
What in the world– some kind of overwhelming power dominated the area, to the point where he could not even raise his voice. Trying to find its identity, Asyut looked around the area.
And then the asiatic jasmine caught his eyes.
It was too sudden.
The plant, that had its young vines fluttering in the wind, abruptly began to stretch towards the sky.
Once he saw its movement, the rest happened in a flash. The vine began to grow at a rapid speed and spread to all sides, covering the wall of the building all at once. Asyut could only watch it like that, stunned. Before long, the slightly dull white wall was dyed in the green of leaves.
That wasn’t all. The plant, which covered the entire wall, began to bud this time at the same speed. –No. The moment it budded, in the next instant it blossomed. Lovely pale pink flowers, one, two, three… they blossomed at a speed he couldn’t count anymore.
Mislee seemed to notice an inexplicable presence in the back yard and peeked her head out hesitantly. And then her eyes popped wide, almost to the point of falling out, at the sight that was spread out in front of her.
“Oh, oh my, huh!?”
Hearing Mislee’s disconcerted voice, other patients also appeared. And then, like Mislee, they stood rigidly straight with their mouths open.
After that, a stillness returned. It didn’t take a long time.
In no time the wall was covered flowers to the extent where a person could mistake it for a pale pink waterfall. Every time a breeze blew, the flowers swayed and a faintly sweet scent drifted in the area.
In the utterly silent back yard, Mislee murmured this in a daze.
“Is this real life? I’m not dreaming, right?”
Her line of sight remained fixed on the stunning waterfall of asiatic jasmine.
“It’s a miracle.”
“It must be the saint’s miracle.”
At that voice, everyone in the area sent their gaze to Celiastina. Finally noticing her figure in Asyut’s arms with her eyes closed, everyone lost their words again.
Asyut remained unmoving like that.
The last miracle she brought– However, he didn’t wish for that.
All he wanted was for her to just stay by his side.
That would have been enough.
Asyut bit his lip and looked up at the asiatic jasmine which calmly fluttered in the wind for a very long time.
(T/N: Please don’t hurt me LOL! I debated holding off on this until the next chapter was done but who knows when that’ll come out. Anyway, hold your horses everyone, there’s still one more chapter in this volume and one more volume to go!!)